Anti Reverse Engineering Techniques using Transient Electronics (Internal Project 2013)
Reverse engineering is the process of determining the functionality and design of a product or system by examining characteristics (visual, electrical, physical, etc.) of the product or system and with little or no a priori knowledge of the design or architecture. Our goal in this project is to explore anti-tampering techniques that not only cause the system to no longer function but also are not easily avoided. Our technique is based on the new field of transient electronics. Transient electronics were developed for use in implantable electronics – i.e. devices that are implanted into the human body and then dissolve after some period. These devices work by encapsulating electronics in layers of bioresorbable material that dissolve when exposed to water or liquid. This “disappearing” property is what it makes it attractive as an anti-tampering technology. The key is to use these transient electronics in key portions of the system interconnect on a PCB, and then cause the encapsulating layers to react when there is evidence of tampering. Since bioresorbable material is not readily available at this time, the first task is to design techniques that introduce moisture into a system when the system is opened for the first time. The moisture is intended to cause the bioresorbable material to dissolve. We will investigate enclosure mechanisms that will leak controlled amounts of liquid on to a pseudo-transient electronic devices that acts as a bioresorbable material. Several types of circuitry including PCB interconnect, RLC components, and simple digital logic will be evaluated for performance characteristics as well as their behavior when exposed to moisture – particularly with regards to time to breakdown. The breakdown process may also generate sufficient current and power to initiate a self-destruct sequence that may be used to erase memories and flash. This is unclear and needs to be measured to understand its effect. If transient electronic material is not available by year 2, we will design these systems using simulations and models of transient electronic behaviors.
Oct. 1, 2013 – Oct. 1, 2015
Year 1 (Due Oct. 1 2014). We will report on our preliminary investigation of anti-tampering moisture release techniques. We will report on our preliminary investigation on transient electronics, their unique properties and physical features.
Year 2 (Due Oct. 1 2015). A prototype implementation with a real or pseudo transient electronic device will be completed. We will deliver strategies for using transient electronics to power self-destruct strategies. We will also deliver a final report on the methods and the results obtained from our implementations.
Prof. J.A. Chandy, UTC Associate Professor in Engineering Innovation and Associate Head, ECE Department, UConn
Prof. L. Wang, Associate Professor, ECE Department, UConn
- Transient Electronics, By: Shuai Chen, Prof. Lei Wang, Prof. John Chandy